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A Little Faith Goes A Long Way!


 

How important is faith? According to Jesus, it’s VERY important:

“Whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive it if you have faith.” (Matthew 18:22)

“Daughter, your faith has made you well.” (Mark 5:34)

“Rise and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)

We often become uncomfortable when we read Jesus’ words, fearing that the reason our prayers aren’t answered is due to a lack of faith. This can result in anxiety because we don’t know how to increase our faith. In fact, doesn’t the Church teach that faith is a gift? If that’s the case, is there ANYTHING that we can do to increase it? Interestingly enough, the apostles had the same concern and took it up with Jesus:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

As per usual, Jesus’ answer is a bit surprising:

The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)

If we read between the lines, the Lord appears to be telling the apostles that they are not making use of the faith that they already have. This message applies to each one of us. While praying for an increase in faith is certainly a recommended practice, are we making use of what we’ve already been given? A good example of putting faith into practice can be found by looking at an event that occurred as Jesus and His disciples experienced a storm while riding in a boat. While this is hardly a story that ever gets used to illustrate what strong faith looks like, dissecting it can yield some surprising conclusions.

He got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Matthew 8: 23-27)

For years, I would look at this story and criticize the disciples, wondering how they could be worried when Jesus was in the boat with them. Recently, however, I’ve come to realize that they handled this situation a lot better than I’ve handled similar events in my life. Instead of just worrying when they realized their lives were in danger, they went to Jesus and asked Him to save them. That was smart! How many times do we begin worrying about our problems and forget to pray? The fruit of their prayer was that Jesus calmed the storm. He didn’t say, “Sorry, you didn’t trust me. You’re on your own!” Notice also that Jesus never said they had no faith, saying instead that they possessed “little” faith. Obviously, they had some degree of faith in Christ because they went to Him for help. They believed that He could fix the problem. While their faith may have been weak, they had SOME faith and that was enough!

While it’s encouraging to realize that we can indeed “move mountains” with faith the size of a mustard seed, imagine what we could do if our faith was even greater! So what can we do? How is it possible to increase our faith? In his apostolic letter Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI addressed this very question:

Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, “strengthen themselves by believing”.

One of the best ways for our faith to grow is by putting the faith we already have into practice. The more we trust in the Lord and His providence, the more He will increase our faith. This often means stepping into action, even if we’re afraid. It means praying for a miracle healing or a new job, even when the odds are against you. The very act of praying implies that you do have faith and that you’re trusting in God. You may not trust a lot, but you trust enough to ask for His help. Don’t let the fact that you’re afraid cause you distress. Being afraid isn’t as important as what you do with that fear. The disciples were afraid during the storm, but that fear led them to go to Jesus. They exercised what little faith they had and the Lord came to their assistance. Good things happen when we step out in faith. The greatest example of this can be seen when we look at the life of our Blessed Mother. Her “yes” (even though she didn’t know most of the details) resulted in the arrival of our Savior!

By all means we should continue to ask the Lord to increase our faith, but we must never forget to make use of the faith we already have by praying frequently and with confidence. By doing so, an outpouring of graces and blessings will be unleashed…even if our faith is as small as a mustard seed!

“Faith is one foot on the ground, one foot in the air, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.” (Mother Angelica)

Suffering? 10 Lessons We Can Learn From The Agony In The Garden


 

Catholic speaker Gary Zimak presents 10 lessons about suffering that we can learn from Jesus and the agony in the garden

Over the course of our lives, it is inevitable that we will experience suffering. It is also inevitable that this suffering will cause us to ask many questions:

Why me?

What should I do?

Is it okay to feel anxious or sad?

Can God help me?

Fortunately for us, the answers to each of these (any many more) questions about suffering can be found by studying Jesus’ actions on the night before He died. Here are 10 lessons that we can learn from the Agony in the Garden.

1. It’s Okay To Be Troubled – Sometimes we think that feeling sad or nervous means that our faith is lacking. We assume that if we trust God, we should always be happy. Not true! While we should avoid worrying, fear and sadness are normal human emotions. Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled” (Mt 26:37), “greatly distressed” (Mk 14:33) and “His sweat became like great drops of blood” (Lk 22:44). It’s perfectly acceptable for you do feel the same way when faced with difficulties in your life.

2. Prayer Matters – While there’s nothing wrong with feeling distressed or sad when facing difficulties, we should never succumb to useless worry. Instead, we should imitate Jesus and PRAY!

3. Ask Your Friends For Help – One thing that makes suffering more intense is the feeling that we’re in it alone. In his agony, Jesus teaches us an important lesson. Ask others for help! Jesus asked Peter, James and John to accompany Him as He prayed in the garden. When we’re in trouble, we should ask people to pray for us. In addition to our earthly friends, we can ask the saints in Heaven and the souls in purgatory to intercede on our behalf. There is never a reason to suffer alone!

4. God Can Do All Things – No matter what you are facing, ALWAYS remember that there is hope. Jesus assures us with the following words, addressed to His Father:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.” (Mark 14:36)

5. It’s Okay To Ask For Relief – Sometimes we’re afraid to ask the Lord to take away our suffering. We shouldn’t be. Jesus did exactly that:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me.” (Mt 26:39)

Always feel free to ask the Lord to remove your suffering, but…

6. Thy Will Be Done – We should accept the Lord’s decision. When Jesus prayed that His suffering might pass, He appended the words “but not as I will, but as thou will” to the prayer (Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Lk 22:42). Adding this powerful phrase ALWAYS ensures that we are praying in accordance with God’s will, even if His will is unknown to us!

7. Prayer Always Works – We often complain that God doesn’t answer our prayers. What this really means is that He doesn’t answer them in the way we’d like. We have to trust that, when we pray, we’ll always receive what we NEED, not necessarily what we WANT. In His humanity, Jesus prayed that His suffering would be removed (if it be the Father’s will). As it turned out, this was not the Father’s will. It was necessary that Jesus endure suffering so that mankind could be redeemed. In addition, Jesus received something that He didn’t request, but something that helped Him to carry His cross:

“And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him” (Lk 22:43)

8. Don’t Stop Praying – In times of trouble, one of our biggest temptations is to stop praying. If the Lord doesn’t answer fast enough, we often stop praying. Big mistake! In his gospel account, St. Matthew tells us that Jesus prayed three times in the garden “saying the same words” (Mt 26:44). Therefore, it’s perfectly fine for you to continually ask God to heal your cancer or help you find a job!

9. Pray To Avoid Temptation – While He was in the garden, Jesus warned Peter, James and John to pray that they would not enter into temptation (Mt 26:41, Mk 14:38, Lk 22:46). What’s one of the biggest temptations that we can encounter in the midst of suffering? Despair! Without prayer, it’s very easy to give up as we tire of carrying our cross. Take Jesus’ words seriously and keep praying even if you don’t feel like it.

10. Angels Are Real – Do you believe in angels? You should because they are VERY real and can help you! When Jesus was agonizing in the garden, who was sent to strengthen Him? Certainly not Peter, James and John because they were asleep! Instead, an angel was sent to strengthen the Lord (Lk 22:42). Each of us has a guardian angel who watches over us. Remembering that fact during times of trouble can be extremely comforting. If an angel was sent to strengthen the Lord during His incredible agony, couldn’t your angel do the same for you?

As Christians, we are all called to imitate Jesus. There is no better time to do so than during our times of suffering. Not only did Christ suffer much, but He can teach us a great deal about HOW to suffer. Following His example can help us greatly as deal with our daily struggles.

Don’t Let Fear Stop You From Saying “Yes”!


 

“If you want to do something for the Lord, do it! Whatever you feel needs to be done, even though you’re shaking in your boots and you’re scared to death – take the first step. The grace comes with that first step, and you get the grace as you step. Being afraid is not a problem. It’s doing nothing when you’re afraid, that’s the problem.” (Mother Angelica)

It’s okay to be afraid.

Are you kidding me? The author of A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible and a frequent speaker on conquering anxiety is saying that there’s nothing wrong with being afraid…what’s going on here? Well, friends, I really did mean what I said. As I often state in my parish talks, fear is a perfectly normal emotion in certain circumstances. It can even be helpful, especially when it motivates us to DO something. On the other hand, fear becomes a problem when it leads to worry or causes us to NOT do something that we should do.

God often asks us to do things that frighten us…

Share our Faith with others, some of whom may react in a hostile manner.

Apologize to someone we have offended.

Trust in His providence by accepting a lesser paying, but more rewarding job.

Offer up our illness or suffering.

Two years ago, after dismissing the idea numerous times as being “impossible”, my wife and I felt that we were being called to homeschool our children. Although we were afraid and skeptical, we trusted (barely) that the Lord would be there for us. We said, “yes”. A few months later, I was laid off from my day job, and we decided that I should finally try to earn a living as a full time Catholic Evangelist. Again, we again said, “yes”. To be totally honest, however, we were scared to death both times. What we’ve discovered in the past two years is that if you say “yes” to the Lord (even if you’re terrified), He can do some incredible things in your life. Even better is that, the more you trust, the more He’ll increase your faith.

The Bible contains numerous stories of people who went along with God’s plan for their lives. Moses, Abraham, Jonah (reluctantly!), Samuel, Isaiah, Mary, Sts. Peter and Paul all said “yes” to the Lord without knowing most of the details. As a result, God was able to use them in amazing ways. In the same way, He wants to use us. Best of all, even our fear isn’t enough to thwart His plans. The only thing that will stop it from happening is when we answer with one word…

“No”!

Feeling Depressed and Hopeless? Turn To Saint Jude!


 

Catholic speaker Gary Zimak discusses his devotion to Saint Jude

One of the blessings granted to me by the Lord is the opportunity to encounter many people who are suffering. While this hardly sounds like a blessing, I consider it an honor because I’m able to share His “Good News” and bring some peace into their lives. Jesus told us repeatedly that we can experience His peace even in the midst of extreme suffering and trials. We often get so battered and worn, however, that we lose sight of this message. When this happens, it’s important to reach out to others and ask them to carry us in prayer. As Catholics, we are blessed by our belief in the Communion of Saints. As a result we can also turn to the saints in heaven and ask them to intercede for us. Throughout the years, St. Jude the Apostle has become known as the patron saint of hopeless causes. Many of you will read this and immediately reply, “that’s me”! If you are tired, weary, depressed and feeling hopeless, I invite you to pray the following prayer. I found it in a Saint Jude prayer booklet and thought it may prove helpful. If you are reading this post, rest assured that you will be in my daily prayers as well. Don’t give up…things WILL get better!

Prayer To St. Jude For The Depressed
St. Jude, friend to those in need, I am weary from grief and anxiety. I am often without joy, without hope, struggling through the dark night of the soul. I turn to you in prayer. Take away this emptiness and the pain of my broken heart. In your compassion, wipe away my tears and carry me to a place of peace. Too long have I been blind to the goodness of God’s world. Help me to take my life one day at a time, one moment at a time, and to be aware of God’s love for me always. Heal me. I yearn to feel, to bathe in light and joy. Envelop me in brightness, and do not hold back. And I promise, if you should see me fit to receive these gifts, I will share them always. Amen.

A Prayer For An End To Worry


 

Earlier today, I discovered this prayer in a “Healing and Hope” prayer book published by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It may very well be the BEST prayer that I’ve ever seen on the subject of worry. If you’re worried about something, I recommend that you pray the following words from your heart. And if you’re someone who has a tendency to worry about lots of things, be sure to bookmark this page or print a copy. It’s really THAT good!

Prayer For An End To Worry
Jesus, you know I am a worrier. I don’t want to be. I believe that God, our Father, will take care of me, but sometimes I question the strength of my faith. Many times, I give my worries to You, and then I take them back. Help me to take control of those worries I can do something about and let go of the worries that are out of my hands. I fret about many things, yet from experience, I know that you take care of my needs. No matter what happens, I can count on You to be by my side. Still at times I am weak, questioning my own abilities, and before I know it, again I am worrying. You are my hope, Jesus and I trust You. Heal me of this weakness, Jesus. Give me peace of mind. Help me direct my energy to action, not worry. Amen.

Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen?


 

Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen?

Yesterday’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon certainly brings this question to the minds of many people. If God really loves us, why does He allow us to suffer? Why does He permit terrorism, child abuse and natural disasters to occur? While the brutally honest and truthful answer is that “He’s God and He knows what He’s doing”, there are a few specific points that can help us to better understand these tragedies. And, quite frankly, understanding them can often make the difference between moving closer to the Lord or turning our backs on Him.

Free Will – God loves us so much that He gives us the gift of free will. This means that while we are free to do good, we also have the ability to do evil. The person or persons who caused the explosions in Boston chose to commit an evil act. In no way did God cause this to happen. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC):

Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it. (CCC 311)

Greater Good – In his Letter To The Romans, St. Paul states that “We know that IN EVERYTHING God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, emphasis mine) Not just the good things, but the bad things too. How is it possible that good can result from the mutilation and murder of innocent people? While I don’t claim to understand all of God’s reasons, there are a few obvious ones that stand out. When tragedy occurs, we get to see people helping one another. Every time a tragedy takes place, there are numerous stories of heroism and genuine love of neighbor that emerge. We also see an increase in prayer. Many people who aren’t used to praying suddenly “hit their knees”. We’re also reminded of our mortality and how we’re not really in control of our own destiny.

In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: “It was not you”, said Joseph to his brothers, “who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.” From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that “abounded all the more”,brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good. (CCC 312)

Trust – When tragic events occur, we are given an opportunity to trust God. It is during the dark times that we must truly “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). When skies are blue, it’s a lot easier for us to trust than during storms. However, storms often give us the best chance to grow closer to the Lord.

We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face”, will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth. (CCC 314)

An Invitation – When bad things happen, either in our own life or in the lives of others, we are invited to assist God in bringing good out of evil. We can do this by praying. Although the Lord doesn’t need our help, He allows us to help Him through the act of prayer.

Since Abraham, intercession – asking on behalf of another has been characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. In the age of the Church, Christian intercession participates in Christ’s, as an expression of the communion of saints. In intercession, he who prays looks “not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” even to the point of praying for those who do him harm. (CCC 2635)

Heaven – As much as we’d like it to be, this world is not perfect. Pain and suffering do exist. Accepting this will cause us to remain calm when these events occur. In addition, it will increase our desire for heaven, where there is NO PAIN AND SUFFERING!

We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ.

Although it’s not easy, it’s crucial for us to keep our eye on the Lord when “bad things” happen. Blaming Him for the suffering, although understandable, is neither accurate or wise. If we truly believe that He loves us, we should strive to see His goodness in everything. Doing so will bring us great peace, even in times of turmoil.

Pope Benedict’s Resignation…Be Not Afraid!


 

Whenever I give a talk on anxiety, I ask the audience if they know what phrase Blessed Pope John Paul II used three times in his first speech as Holy Father. Invariably, several people cry out…

“Be not afraid!”

Echoing a familiar Biblical theme, used several times by Jesus, the late Holy Father reminds us that God is in control. No matter what happens in our life, the Lord is right there beside us. While it can be a very comforting reminder, it is also really easy to forget…especially when change or suffering arises in our lives.

Today, many of us woke up to some shocking news. Our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February 28. While this is certainly sad news for those of us who love and respect the Holy Father, it is also a time to put our trust in the words of Jesus to St. Peter, the first pope:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Mt 16:18)

In other words, we can relax because the Church isn’t going anywhere. We will get through this, just as we survived the death of Blessed John Paul II and every other pope before him. Now, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sad. I have a deep love and respect for Pope Benedict and the Church has been blessed to have him as a leader. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13) who guides us to the truth.

I’m starting to see a lot of traffic on social media outlets, expressing unhappiness about what is sure to come in the mass media: mainly speculation on whether the new Holy Father will be “liberal” or “conservative”. The individuals who can be classified as “conservative” are hoping that the new pope will “straighten out the Church”. Those who consider themselves “liberal”, on the other hand, are praying for someone who will eliminate priestly celibacy and permit the ordination of women. Unfortunately, my friends, when we spend time dwelling on either of those positions, we can easily lose sight of a very important fact.

In two days, we enter into the holy season of Lent. This is a time given to us by the Church, to allow us to reflect our shortcomings and inordinate attachments and focus on moving closer to the Lord. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t sin in one way or another. Whether it’s by commission (doing things I shouldn’t do) or omission (not doing things I should do), I fall into this trap every single day. And, like it or not, I’m going to be judged for these sins one day. Even worse, I’m going to stand face to face with the Lord and try to explain why I let Him down so many times. Fortunately, Lent allows me to address some of my shortcomings and express remorse for them. It gives me a chance, with God’s grace, to become a better person. Right now, that has to be my main focus. None of us know if we will ever get to experience another Lent. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity!

Considering today’s news, it’s normal to feel sad and be concerned about the future of the Church, but don’t get carried away. My family and I pray for the Holy Father every day. This morning, my wife reminded our children that our prayers (and the prayers of all who pray for him daily) helped Pope Benedict to make this decision. He is a prayerful man and he is guided by the Holy Spirit. Continue to pray for him and for the Church and don’t forget to invoke the intercession of Our Lady, who was instrumental in praying for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church (Acts 1:14). In the meantime, let’s get ready to enter into Lent, mindful of the fact that it is a great opportunity for purification. If you’d like some company along the way, don’t forget that the Following The Truth Lenten Radio Retreat begins on Ash Wednesday. I’d love to have you join us!

Worrying About Finances? Here’s A Message From Jesus…


 

As the author of a book on anxiety, I do a lot of speaking about the topic. As a result, I’ve met many people who are worried about lots of things. Somewhere near the top of the list are those who are struggling financially. Many people don’t know how they will pay their rent, buy food or pay their bills. Jesus has a clear message about this matter. It has nothing to do with financial irresponsibility or burying one’s head in the sand. Rather, it’s a reminder that we should place our trust in God’s providence. The road may be bumpy, there could be lots of twists and turns, but the Lord really does understand that we have material needs. Read this passage, over and over if necessary. In the meantime, keep praying and trust…

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” (Matthew 6:25-33)

Ten Saints Every Worrier Should Know

Catholic speaker and author Gary Zimak will be leading a Pray, Hope and Don't Worry at the Malvern Retreat House in 2016

Although we’d rather not admit it, many of us worry (or are tempted to worry) each day of our lives. One of the reasons that we worry is that we sometimes feel we are facing our problems alone. Once we meet others who are dealing with similar problems, we usually feel better. Even more comforting is when we encounter someone who has survived the issue that is troubling us. As Catholics, much can be gained by studying the lives of the saints. Far from living easy lives, these men and women have struggled with many of the same anxiety producing problems experienced by you and I. Furthermore, we know that they’ve ended up we all want to go – Heaven! Are you anxious or worried? Do you have serious problems in your life? Here are 10 saints that you should get to know. We can learn A LOT from their lives.

1. Saint Dymphna – Many Catholics who are anxious are familiar with Saint Dymphna, the patroness of those afflicted with nervous disorders and anxiety. According to tradition, she was born in Ireland (in the 7th century) to a pagan father and a Christian mother. When Dymphna’s mother died, her distraught father traveled in vain searching for a new wife. Eventually he reached the unimaginable conclusion that he would take Dymphna as his wife! At the urging of a priest, she took flight and was ultimately located and murdered by her father. It’s easy to see the kind of emotional stress that this young girl was under and equally understandable to see why she became known as the patron saint of those who suffer from anxiety. Many miracles are reported to have taken place at her shrine in Belgium, located near the place of her death.

2. Saint Jude Thaddeus – If there’s one saint that Catholics turn to when all looks bleak, it’s Saint Jude Thaddeus. One of the twelve Apostles, he is known as the patron of hopeless cases. Although many are aware of Saint Jude’s reputation for providing assistance when all else fails, there is some confusion as to how he was chosen for that role. One of the most popular theories is that, due to the similarity of his name with that of fellow Apostle Judas, the faithful steered clear of devotion to him. As a result, devotion to him became something of a “lost cause”. He is available and willing to intercede for our most desperate intentions.

3. Saint Rita of Cascia – Born in 1381 in Italy, Saint Rita is known as the patroness of impossible cases. She was married to a man with a violent temper who abused and mistreated her. After eighteen years of marriage, her husband was murdered. One day Rita overheard her two sons plotting to avenge the death of their father. Fearing the loss of their souls, she prayed that her sons would avoid taking revenge on their father’s murderer. Suddenly, both of them took sick and died before any retaliation could take place. Although her prayers were answered in an unlikely manner, they were indeed answered and her sons were prevented from carrying out a grave offense.

4. Saint Padre Pio – With a motto such as “Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry”, it’s easy to see why I included Saint Pio in this list. He was a firm believer in God’s providence and understood that worry was useless. Any time that we waste on worrying could be more productively spent in prayer. What should we pray for? One thing could be an increase in the theological virtue of hope, which allows us to believe that “all things work for the good” (Romans 8:28) and that the problems of this life are temporary. One day, along with Saint Pio, it will be possible for us to live in the problem-free paradise known as Heaven!

5. Saint Henry II – While at Monte Cassino in 1021, Saint Henry II (emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) became ill. Tradition has it that Saint Benedict then cured him by prayer. How common are miraculous cures? Maybe more common than we realize! We’re always quick to downplay God’s involvement in our lives, often referring to favorable outcomes as “luck”. In 1997, my wife and I were told that our twin girls would probably not be born alive. Today, Mary and Elizabeth are healthy 15 year old young ladies. Eileen and I (as well as many of the members of the medical staff) know that their survival was a miracle, the fruit of countless prayers. While they were assisted by numerous doctors and nurses, we believe that the Lord worked through these skilled individuals. God can (and does) still perform miracles…let’s give Him the chance!

6. Blessed Julian of Norwich – Although not technically a saint, Blessed Julian of Norwich is greatly revered by many Catholics. Although very little is known about her life, she is famous for a quote that has provided consolation to many throughout the years. Those of us who tend to be anxious sometimes look at the waves crashing around us and fail to see the Lord’s providence. Blessed Julian helps us to regain our focus and recall that God is ultimately in control. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

7. Saint Vincentia Lopez – Canonized in 1975, Saint Vincentia Lopez was the foundress of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate for Domestic Service, a religious congregation dedicated to ministering to working girls. In a letter to her mother, she wrote: “Come and stay with us, and your ills will certainly mend. Imagination plays a large part in them, and here there are so many distractions that you will have no time to think.” I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. One of the best ways to stop worrying is to keep busy. If worry motivates you to do something, then it can be productive. If, on the other hand, all you’re doing is mulling over the bad things that could happen in your life, it’s time to take Saint Vincentia’s advice and get busy.

8. Saint Juan Diego – I decided to include Juan Diego in this list not because of anything that he said or did, but because of what was said to him. In December of 1531, the Blessed Mother appeared several times to this poor Aztec Indian in Mexico. His bishop was skeptical and asked for a sign. On December 11, Mary promised Juan that on the following day she would give him a sign that he could take to the bishop. The next day, his uncle became seriously ill and Saint Juan avoided meeting Mary as she had instructed him to do. Mary appeared to him and said, “Listen and be sure, my dear son, that I will protect you; do not be frightened or grieve, or let your heart be dismayed, however great the illness that you speak of. Am I not here? I, who am your Mother, and is not my help a refuge? Am I not of your kind? Do not be concerned about your uncle’s illness, for he is not going to die. Be assured, he is already well. Is there anything else you need?” Instead of worrying, have you discussed your problems with Mary? Why not? Just as she did with Saint Juan Diego, she is waiting to help you.

9. Pope Saint Leo the Great – Attila the Hun was a ruthless and powerful warrior who conquered many lands, including Austria and Germany. In 452, he set his sights on Italy and proceeded to successfully conquer several cities and was heading toward Rome. Attila boasted that conquering Rome would be his greatest victory. Standing firm in the face of enormous odds, Pope Saint Leo the Great met Attila and his army near Mantua and convinced the tyrant to change his plans and turn back. Rome was spared. According to tradition, when Attila was asked why he backed down so easily, he noted that while the Holy Father spoke, he saw a vision of Saint Peter holding a sword in his hand. This frightened the ruthless Hun and caused him to change his plans.

10. Saint Stephen Harding – Born in England in the 11th century, Saint Stephen Harding was educated at the Sherborne Abbey and eventually became a monk at the Abbey of Molesme in Burgundy. Feeling that the Lord was calling him to found a monastery, he did just that. In 1098, along with twenty other monks, St. Stephen founded a monastery at Citeaux. They lived a simple life, in accordance with the Rule of Saint Benedict. Eventually, Saint Stephen was elected abbot. As the monks began to die off, they were not being replaced by novices and their numbers began to dwindle. Just as it seemed the monastery would be forced to close, guess who showed up at the door? Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, along with 30 companions who were looking to join a monastery! During the next 8 years, a dozen new houses had to be built in order to house the many new monks who joined the order. This story serves as a reminder that God does provide, although he operates according to His own schedule. Sometimes He allows us to walk in the darkness in order to strengthen our faith. God will never give up on us…don’t make the mistake of giving up on Him!

In addition to being inspired by their lives, these saints can help us in another important way. As residents of Heaven, they can intercede on our behalf and help us to obtain the graces we need to deal with our problems. They have all “been there, done that” and know what it’s like to experience difficulties. They also know what it’s like to live in eternal happiness and are more than willing to do what they can to ensure that we too experience that joy. Don’t make the mistake of facing your problems alone. Turn to your heavenly friends and ask for their help today!

Being Thankful For Storms


 

As I write this from New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy is on the way to our area. According to the forecasts, the rain and winds could wreak havoc all along the East Coast. Understandably, my initial reaction was to feel uncomfortable due to the fact that I was not “in control”. After praying, reading the Bible and visiting the adoration chapel, however, I started to feel an unexpected emotion – gratitude for the “storms” in my life.

I know it sounds crazy, but here’s what I realized – If everything in my life is always going great and I’m not facing any problems, I sometimes don’t feel too dependent on God. To give you an example, now that I’m working full time for the Lord, I’m a lot more conscious of the petition “give us this day our daily bread” (in the Lord’s prayer) than I was when I had a job that paid six figures! While I’m not proud to admit it, I’m one of those people who has a tendency to lapse into spiritual laziness when there are no storms in my life. I suspect that I’m not alone.

Our fallen human nature and limited vision often makes us lose sight of the big picture. What exactly is that big picture? That our every breath is willed by God and He sustains our existence. Just as the Israelites forgot about Him time and time again, we also tend to forget about the Lord when skies are blue. When problems arise and we start to feel threatened, however, it doesn’t take us very long to hit our knees. And because He is kind and merciful, the Lord is always willing to take us back.

Furthermore, without the “storms” of uncertainty in our lives, it wouldn’t be possible for us to practice our faith. For faith is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) Believing in the sure things of life doesn’t require any faith. On the other hand, believing when things look bleak definitely requires faith. The Lord wants us to remember that He is an “eternal rock” (Is 26:4) and is always there for us, especially when we are being battered by waves.

If, like me, you are in the path of Hurricane Sandy or if you have your own personal “storms” raging around you, take advantage of the opportunity to trust in the Lord’s providence. He loves us and will always do what’s best for us. Although it may involve suffering, whatever happens will help us to one day arrive in Heaven. That should help even the most hardened worrier be thankful for “storms”!

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and He delivered them from their distress; He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psalm 107:28-29)